Well my neck got better and I was back to training. Much of the same, lots of running, squats, pushups, strange basic exercises and of course lots and lots of wrestling and unexpectedly basketball as well. We had a game the other day on the outdoors court and I must say that the wrestling students are not very good, they are not very tall either, so I was bounding round the court almost dunking on the low nets. This week my fitness is so much better, I have lost a bit of fat and my flexibility is back to what it was like when I was last in China. I find I regain my fitness and flexibility very fast. It’s putting on muscle that takes ages for me.
I was doing some wrestling with an older student who is getting ready for a competition next week. He came over to me on the mats and grabbed my collier (in shuia jiao wrestling you use thick judo like tops so that you don’t constantly rip your t shirt). “PLAY?” He said in Chinese and we had a tumble. It started off very light both of us just trying to establish a good hold and then only half doing throw. I then put him on the floor with a very lazy slow over the back throw. Ohhh very good he said getting back up again. It got a lot more heated. I tried my best to push him around and tried to execute some of the basic throws I have been taught but it was almost impossible, he was so solid and strong and I could barley do the throws. He would grab the back of my neck and my collar and pull me in a vice like grip so that he controlled my head and shoulders, then in a flash he got under me and grabbed one of my legs, putting his head hard against my side and lifting me clean off the ground. Thankfully he just put me down slowly and didn’t drop me on my head. That’s what I love about playing around with someone who is so much better, you can let go a bit because they can take it and also it may sound weird but I find it a real pleasure being thrown well. One second you’re on your feet the next it feels like you’re in one of those G force machines (well what I imagine they feel like) and I stifle a massive WOOOOOOOOOW!!!! Sailing through the air then you hit the mat with a satisfying and forceful WHACK! Then after all that at the end of the day he gave me a lift back to my home on the back of his push bike. How nice is that?!.
One other day the coach was away and there was a silly virus infecting all the students. they were frolicking around tagging each other and ganging up to pull the victims trousers down and have a good laugh, picking up rocks and throwing them at each other’s legs and pretending to be kung foo masters doing spinney kicks and mimicking things they saw in films. We were going to play basketball again for a bit to warm up when one man who used to be a shuia jiao wrestling champion came alone in his black swish car with tinted windows and beckons some of the students over. Now I generally get a feeling when I don’t like or trust someone and when I first meet this man with his wondering mad eye I didn’t really get a good vibe. “AHHH YOU KNOW TAI CHI!!” he said when we first met “CHINESE KONG FOO!!” he said in a bellowing voice, he started doing exaggerated Tai chi movements and leaping around doing things of that nature. “GOODA GOODA!” he said trying to speak English. Whenever I have seen him since in his car he pulls up beside me honking his horn and zips down his tinted window “HELLO?” I give a wave then he does a few crazy hand movement like Jackie Chan doing kung foo, gives me a thumbs up and then screeches off in his car.
Anyway he came up when we were going to do some basketball; we were all outside near the courts. From what I understood he was going to take me and as many other student that could fit in his car (it turned out to be 8 including me) to go to a kung foo school, Before I left I asked the only two female wrestlers “What are they going to do?”, the smaller of the two, stocky with short hair and a male manner spoke with a sneer “they are going to eat tofu”, which in Chinese means to have sex. So against my gut feeling I squeezed into the car and we went off playing very loud cheesy dance music (which I actually liked lot).
It turned out we didn’t go to any Kung Foo school and we didn’t have sex either. From what I understood about the driver he was either the owner or the head master of various schools in the area. The first primary school we arrived at was just outside Xin zhuo city, it had two large buildings and a big court yard where we parked. We arrived just as an afternoon break was starting and hundreds of children came pouring out of the main door and ran screaming towards us. Before I knew it we were surrounded by kindergarten students and young kids up to about 12 years old. They were like a living sea and me the beach. They would surge towards me laughing hysterically and then when the front line came within a few feet of me they would retreat like the tide jumping back in mock fear. Even the wrestlers who were watching the show looked a bit un nerved by the madness, The driver who from now on will be known as Mad eyed moody because A. I don’t know his real name and B. he has a slightly roaming eye and he looks and acts like a mad man. Anyway he paraded me into the building and the students followed us up the stairs until we where beckoned into one of the teachers offices, then as we entered the small office the door was closed on the encroaching little people who stayed screaming and shouting outside the door like a protesting mob. We sat down and I looked at the wrestlers and we gave each other a wide eye and a bemused shrug. After a few minutes of rest we left much in the same way we arrived wading through the sea of bubbling youngsters and got back in the car and drove away, the roaring of the crowd finally fading, the next school we visited was in a small village and in a very beautiful old house. It was entirely made from dark wood and had a stone paved court yard surrounded by the class rooms, a large stone water feature modeled like a mountain with small temples specked on it warbled as we entered the large door into the courtyard. I was introduced to the teachers and I tried to start a conversation with the English teacher, a tall pretty young woman who could not stop giggling. It turned out her English was not very good and I am surprised she managed to land a job as an English teacher. The class rooms where small and all the students where jam packed on to small desks with benches. I am surprised that they got any writing done; there was hardly space to move your elbows. We were left in the teachers office again while mad eyed moody disappeared. Even though it was not break time a crown of children raced to the office door and looked through the glass window, the teachers had a hard time beating them back to their class rooms. I think we visited another 2 schools and we experienced the same craziness. On the way back to Xin zhuo we past the old main gate to the city. A large rectangle block painted bright red with a wooden style temple on top and a small gate way through the middle of the block. It was very grand and beautiful, contrasting with the gray dirty concrete buildings surrounding the gate. Like a single lost island of tradition marooned in an ocean of the modern.